Thursday, September 24, 2020

MPs at odds over Mildura Base Hospital COVID-19 response

THE region's federal and state members have gone head-to-head over Mildura Base Hospital's COVID-19 preparations.

Mildura Member Ali Cupper released a public letter to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday night, calling for the hospital to be fast-tracked back to public management due to a lack of urgency and communication by Ramsay Health Care in the current health crisis.

Ms Cupper's letter claimed trusted sources from within the hospital's frontline had described MBHs response to the coronavirus as "shambolic".

However, Member for Mallee Anne Webster has labelled Ms Cupper's address as disappointing, unhelpful and described it as "political point-scoring".

"To make what I see as political points at this time is unhelpful and our local health workforce deserve so much encouragement and support," Dr Webster said.

"I am also disappointed to see she has relied on informants communicating to her, rather than as I have done, spoken with the CEO of the hospital Adam Stevenson and the Director of Nursing Janet Hicks."

Ms Cupper ensured she was confident her information was coming from trusted sources.

"If Anne is talking to the management at Ramsay Health Care then I am not surprised they are saying everything is fine," Ms Cupper said.

"The people I am talking to are the frontline staff -- they are gagged from talking to the media but management can."

The decision by Ms Cupper to release the letter to the premier has been criticised on social media.

She has however said taking matter publicly has forced Ramsay to react.

"It is my first point of call is to do things quietly but if I can't get movement, or the timeline is too tight, I use the public lever as the last resort," she said.

"I have three very good examples including calling out Ramsay for its decision to stop two obstetricians contracts that I believe there is a strong indication that public pressure pushed Ramsey into action."

Dr Webster noted she had been working closely with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in pushing for a respiratory clinic to be opened in Mildura and that she strongly believed MBH had been doing a good job.

"Others just get on and quietly do the job and I am absolutely confident that is what (the hospital) are doing," she said.

"Whether they are blowing a trumpet, I don't know but I am more concerned that they are actually doing the work.

"The proof will be in the outcome."

Ms Cupper ensured she would not continue the push for MBH to be returned to public management immediately if Ramsay rose to the occasion.

"In terms of me asking for the fast-tracking of the hospital back to public management -- that is assuming the status quo remains," she said.

"If they are going to start communicating in a sincere way and they are going to step it up, we will let the contract run for another six months.

"Asking the government to do that was a last resort based on inaction at the time of writing that letter."